Summary of EWR’s plans as understood by GSPC

This document represents a summary of the TTIWG’s interpretation of East West Railway Company’s Consultation Report, released on 31st March 2021.

Glossary of technical terms

CRConsultation Report issued by EWR Co on 31st March.
CSConsultation Summary issued by EWR on 31st March and sent to residents’ home addresses via the post.
EWREast West Rail: the proposed new railway that will connect Oxford and Cambridge.
EWR CoEast West Railway Company: a company set up by the Department for Transport that has the responsibility for delivering EWR.
Grade-separated junctionA railway junction whereby two railways merge by one railway crossing the other at a different height (grade). This may be achieved via a flyover or an underpass. The railway junction at Hitchin between the East Coast Main Line and the SBR is a nearby example of such a junction.
Non grade-separated junctionA railway junction whereby two railways merge with both of the railways at the same height (grade) via a system of points. The current layout of SBJ is an example of this.
SBJShepreth Branch Junction: the railway junction where the SBR joins the WAML. It is located in Great Shelford between Granham’s Road and the allotments, underneath the footbridge.
SBRShepreth Branch Royston line, known locally as the “Kings Cross Line”. This railway line runs from Hitchin on the East Coast Main Line, through Royston to the WAML, joining at SBJ in Great Shelford. It is also known as the Cambridge Line in some quarters.
TRTechnical Report issued by EWR Co on 31st March.
WAMLWest Anglia Main Line, known locally as the “Liverpool Street Line”. This runs from Liverpool Street Station to Cambridge through Great Shelford.

Background

EWR is a proposed major new railway connecting Oxford and Cambridge and is a critical component of the Government’s Ox-Cam arc project. The government believes that EWR could deliver significant benefits to South Cambridgeshire but, unfortunately, the proposed route alignment through our County and the manner in which it has been developed are causing serious concern within Great Shelford and other nearby affected parishes.

A consultation covering the section from Bedford to Cambridge began on 31 March and will run until 9 June. This document provides a summary of the project’s potential impact on Great Shelford parish and the Sawston and Shelford County Council division.

EWR’s plans for Great Shelford parish

Overview

CR; Section F

TR; 11.6 & 11.7

Assuming you are approaching Great Shelford from the west, the EWR line will run through Great Shelford parish on the SBR line before joining the WAML in the village at SBJ. It will then run towards Cambridge Station where trains may terminate. EWR Co states that the plans for this section are “at a very early stage of development” and so few details are currently available. (TR; paragraph 11.2.2)

At present, EWR Co anticipates that it won’t need to 4-track the SBR line to SBJ, “but this needs further investigation in the coming design phases” (TR; 11.1.2). Note, however, that the CR is more definitive as it states that the existing 2-track railway will be maintained without qualification (page 25).

EWR also states that the bridge over the railway on Cambridge Road (A1301) will not need “significant alterations” (TR; 11.4.1) and that no properties will need to be demolished in our parish as part of this project.

Shepreth Branch Junction

SBJ will need to be rebuilt to cope with the extra railway traffic and EWR Co is still considering whether the new track alignment should be grade-separated or non grade-separated.

If the new layout is not grade-separated, the EWR tracks will lie to the west of the WAML; if it is grade-separated, the tracks will lie to the east. No discussion as to the advantages or disadvantages of either layout is provided by EWR Co, but we can infer that it has consequences for the approaches into Cambridge South and Cambridge stations and the subsequent design of those stations.

It seems likely that for operational purposes EWR Co would prefer the lines to the east of the WAML so that they line up with the through-running platforms at Cambridge station. This would mean a grade-separated junction at or near the current location of SBJ.

A reasonable working assumption is that the grade-separated junction envisaged by EWR Co will require a fly-over as that is the design that is exclusively discussed elsewhere in the consultation documents and it is likely to be cheaper. Nevertheless, a grade-separated junction with an underpass is a technical possibility and is likely to be preferable to a flyover to residents; however, EWR Co has stated in public webinars that this option is not under consideration due to technical and cost challenges. The following discussion is based on an assumption of a grade-separated junction with a flyover.

Trains can withstand a maximum gradient of 1:80 to be freight compliant (TR; 3.10.6), so it is reasonable to expect the flyover to comprise a viaduct that is at least a kilometre long, depending on the vertical clearance required. It is reasonable to imagine the clearance of the viaduct to be on the order of that of the footbridge currently located at SBJ.

At present, we can only speculate on the location of any such flyover as EWR Co has not published any sketches or anticipated track layouts, but it seems most likely that any viaduct would be placed on the straight section of track between the current location of SBJ and the Addenbrooke’s Road bridge. It seems unlikely that the viaduct would be sited on the curved section of track from the A1301 bridge to SBJ due to the proximity of houses, but EWR Co has provided no indication of this in its consultation documents.

Some land will need to be purchased to enable this work, but it is not clear how much land will be required or precisely where that land is located. (TR; 11.6.7)

4-Tracking from SBJ to Cambridge Station

To deal with the additional capacity, the track from SBJ into Cambridge station must be 4-tracked (TR 11.7).

As a result, the DNA path may need to be moved (TR; 11.7.6). EWR Co says the link will be maintained, but does not mention whether the DNA artwork will be reinstated.

Effects on the remainder of Sawston & Shelford County Council division

Although the proposed section of EWR from Little Shelford to Haslingfield is outside of our parish, it still has the potential to impact our village and will be of keen interest to many residents who live here for a variety of reasons.

Little Shelford Level Crossing

TR; Section 11.5

Due to the increased railway traffic, EWR Co is considering a permanent road closure which could have significant impact on Great Shelford. Residents in Hauxton often come to Great Shelford to use the amenities, which means they will be forced into a diversion and may stop coming altogether. There may be reciprocal challenges for residents of the Shelfords.

EWR Co has mentioned some possible mitigations including a new road, but it is not clear which, if any, it would choose.

National Rail has a policy in place to remove level crossings and the Little Shelford crossing is assessed by them as high risk. Removing this crossing should deliver a notable increase in public health and safety.

Harston to Little Shelford (“Hauxton Junction”)

TR; Section 10

EWR Co’s preference is for a new, grade-separated junction, which it is calling Hauxton Junction, located around Harston to Little Shelford to allow the EWR line to connect to the SBR line. This will see the new line cross the SBR line on a viaduct at a clearance of about 10m, before sweeping round to merge with the SBR line just before it crosses under the M11.

A new bridge over the railway at London Road will be required as the railway will be moved from its current alignment (TR; Figure 10.10; page 394). As a result, EWR Co is proposing to alter the road layout around the junction between London Road and Shelford Road at the foot of the hill leading to Newton.

Due to the increased railway traffic, EWR Co will close Newton Road in Harston at the level crossing. Note that the consultation documents say that EWR Co is only considering closing this road, but in on-line meetings it has said that it will definitely close. EWR Co is consulting on whether it should build some new roads to mitigate the effects of this, but it seems likely that the most direct link between the villages will be lost.

Harlton to Hauxton Junction

TR, Section 10. See also engineering drawings.

There is no specific consultation on this section: it’s presented as a “reasonable worst case design”. There will be:

  • a 10 metre high embankment carrying the railway across the entire River Cam (Rhee) valley and another section from Haslingfield towards the Eversdens; and
  • 17 metre deep cutting at Chapel Hill in Haslingfield.

The Northern Approach

This is discussed on pages 52-55 of the Consultation Report and Appendix F of the Technical Report (pages 44-103 of the Appendices).

EWR Co remains of the opinion that the Northern Approach is inferior to Option E, as chosen in the 2019 Consultation. It is asking for our thoughts, but this route alignment is not included in the consultation.

EWR Co’s main objections are:

  • A “substantial bridge structure” would be required to cross the A14
  • Long sections of elevated track will be required across northern flood plains
  • WAML would need to be 4-tracked into Cambridge due to capacity constraints, which means 40 properties demolished and a new bridge over the A14

What’s not in the Consultation

The following topics are important, but in the current consultation documents there is limited information.

  • Freight: EWR Co states that It is reasonable to expect that there will be demand for freight routes on the new railway between Bedford and Cambridge. In paragraph 3.10.7 of the TR, EWR Co quotes a National Rail estimate of “around 24 freight trains per day in each direction” by 2044. This compares to the few trains that pass through Great Shelford at present (numbers vary depending on a number of factors).
  • Power: EWR Co has softened its position that the line will definitely be diesel and now instead says the power source is under consideration (CR; page 43). Nevertheless, in virtual presentations it has reverted to its initial position that the line will open with diesel-only engines. EWR Co has stated that an objective of the railway is for it to be net carbon zero (CR; page 41), although how this will be achieved has not been disclosed other than mentions of battery or hydrogen power in virtual meetings.
  • Business case: It seems likely that EWR Co has a significant amount of unpublished information on the business case but we are not yet privy to this information. EWR Co has suggested that this could be released prior to the statutory consultation, due during a future phase of the project. It would be beneficial if the information was made available earlier so it can be analysed.

Discussion points that GSPC are considering

  • The rebuilt SBJ could be extremely impactful on the village if, as seems likely, EWR Co. opts for a grade-separated junction. We need to continue dialog with EWR to obtain more details urgently, if any are available. It is likely that residents would strongly prefer a non grade-separated junction at SBJ to minimise the visual impact, noise pollution and vibrations. Based on currently available information, there is only one potential disadvantage to this option and that is the impact on the scheduled monument between Hobson’s Brook and the railway that is located approximately behind Scotsdales garden centre.
  • It is likely that residents would want the artwork on the DNA cycle path to be restored in the event that the path has to be moved to accommodate the rebuilt SBJ. The PC should ensure a continuing dialog on the issue as much of the path is within GS Parish.
  • It is likely that EWR Co’s plans will impact on potential routes planned for CSET and the proposed Sawston Greenway. In particular, the redesign of SBJ could have an impact on the conclusions of the i-Transport report on the feasibility of routing CSET through the village beside the WAML. EWR Co is consulting with GCP/the Mayor, but there is little evidence of the effects of this consultation to date.
  • The two potential road closures in Little Shelford and Harston could have a significant impact on the flow of traffic in that area as it may leave London Road, Harston as the only link to the A10 from the east between Addenbrookes Road and Fowlmere. This may limit the number of people travelling to Great Shelford to access the business services and amenities here, whilst disrupting the travel plans of our residents.
  • The embankment and viaduct from Haslingfield to Harston reaches across the entire River Cam (Rhee) valley, from the cutting in Chapel Hill to the cutting at Rowley’s Hill. It is 10m high for much of its length and will have a considerable impact on the views across the countryside. In addition, some farms and houses will be demolished as part of these plans. It is already apparent that many residents of South Cambridgeshire, including Great Shelford, consider this negatively.
  • National Rail is predicting approximately 48 freight trains per day on the EWR line by 2044. Many residents are concerned by this, particularly since it is likely that they will run at night and the engines are likely to be diesel.
  • Despite the apparent detail in Appendix F on the northern approach to Cambridge, many of the conclusions are assertions and are not supported by evidence. For example:
  • why does the EWR line need to be significantly elevated on the flood plains when other railways in the area are not?
  • Why does the track need to be 4-tracked into Cambridge, when the busier King’s Cross line does not?
  • Why would a bridge across the A14 be considered an eyesore when it is already a built-up area?

NB, this is not an exhaustive list.

  • No plans have yet been released for the construction phase, but this work has the potential to be disruptive for a considerable period of time. Many local roads will be closed at some point and if many are closed simultaneously this could cause significant challenges. Roads at risk include:
  • Hauxton Road, Little Shelford*
  • Newton Road, Harston*
  • London Road, Harston
  • A10 Harston
  • Long Road (the bridge is being replaced to deal with 4-tracking)

*These roads are at risk of permanent closure.

It’s hard to envisage that there won’t be significant traffic congestion, noise, vibrations and other forms of disruption in the village. Note that there have been complaints already towards EWR regarding the work it has undertaken at the western end of the line and EWR has been forced to issue an apology to local residents.